The man who has guided Northern Hospital of Surry County for nearly 20 years is leaving for a new health-care job in the region.
Bill James’ departure was announced Tuesday by NHSC, where he serves as president and chief executive officer.
James, 55, has accepted a new appointment as president of Wake Forest Baptist Health-Lexington Medical Center, a job he’ll begin on April 21. His last day at Northern Hospital will be April 11.
“It’s hard to leave an organization like this,” said James, who became the hospital’s chief executive officer in June 1995.
“But I’m excited about taking on the new challenge,” he added Tuesday regarding his new position in Lexington. “This is a wonderful career opportunity.”
The Lexington center is a not-for-profit medical facility that operates 94 acute-care beds and serves as a satellite provider of numerous Wake Forest Baptist Health specialty services. Its history of providing health care in Davidson County dates to the 1920s. In addition, the medical center — which is accredited by The Joint Commission, a national accreditation authority — operates 14 physician practices and a public pharmacy.
“As part of Wake Forest Baptist Health, Lexington Medical Center has the resources of a nationally recognized academic medical center at its doorstep, enabling the facility to offer world-class health care here, close to home,” James said in a statement released by NHSC Tuesday.
NHSC governing officials say that under James’ leadership, Northern Hospital has become known as a well-respected, award-winning health-care system that is financially sound with modern facilities, state-of-the art equipment and high-quality physicians and nurses.
Unlike the situation with some hospitals, the operation in Mount Airy not only has survived during difficult times for the industry, but thrived with the addition of key facilities and personnel under Bill James’ leadership.
“This community can be very proud of the resources that are here that are first-class,” he said Tuesday.
James considers the biggest physical accomplishment at NHSC during his tenure to be the opening of a new surgical center in 2009, which allowed the hospital to offer the best services possible in that branch of medicine. “We were able to get the latest and the greatest things available at that time,” the hospital official said.
Despite being about five years old, the surgical center continues to be a state-of-the-art facility, “as viable as anything on the market today,” he said.
In addition to technology and facility upgrades, James is equally proud of the personnel enhancements made over the years at the local hospital, from physicians on down. “We have really worked on developing our staff, whether it is the clinical staff or otherwise.”
Along the way, Northern Hospital of Surry County has remained a key player in the area health-care marketplace.
“The hospital is in a very strong financial position,” said James, who acknowledged that the going isn’t easy at times.
“The biggest challenge has to be the amount of government regulations that is constantly changing,” he said. “And the huge variety that exists among how patients are paid for,” which James said requires navigating through an assortment of governmental medical programs and private insurance plans.
Plans To Replace
“Bill has done a great job here in Mount Airy for 19 years and leaves Northern Hospital with a strong team in place,” said a statement from William K. Woltz Jr., who chairs the NHSC Board of Trustees.
James’ work here also was praised by his new employers.
“He is regarded as one of the top community hospital executives in the mid-Atlantic region,” John D. McConnell, M.D., chief executive officer at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, said in a statement released Tuesday. McConnell called James, who has more than 30 years’ experience in his field, “a seasoned health-care professional.”
Karen “Bobbi” Carbone, M.D., executive vice president and chief operating officer of Wake Forest Baptist Health, also commented on James’ work in Mount Airy.
“During his tenure there, he successfully strengthened the market position of the 133-bed acute- and post-acute-care hospital,” Carbone said in a statement. “He and his team grew revenue, increased cash reserves and reduced debt-to-equity ratio, ensuring stability for what is now the progressive, financially sound, independent community hospital it is today.”
Woltz said an announcement about an interim replacement for James will be made soon. Meanwhile, a search is to begin immediately for a permanent president and chief executive officer.
“We wish him well in his new position,” Woltz added.
Before coming here in 1995, James was an associate of the company that provides management services to NHSC, Quorum Health Resources Inc., of Brentwood, Tenn., and had previously served at hospitals in Virginia and Alabama.
Over the years, James has been active in the Mount Airy community, serving as a member of the boards of directors of Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care, the Surry County Chapter of the American Red Cross, the United Fund of Surry County, the Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce and the Surry County Economic Development Partnership.
James previously was a member of and Paul Harris Fellow in the Mount Airy Rotary Club and served as cubmaster of Pack 596. In 2013, he chaired the March of Dimes’ local fundraising campaign.
He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree in health administration from Virginia Commonwealth University/Medical College of Virginia. James and his wife Terry are the parents of two daughters, Rebekah and Amanda, and two sons, Cameron and Boris.
“I’ll treasure the relationships developed from being a part of Mount Airy and Surry County,” he said.
“Leaving Northern Hospital is difficult after 19 years.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-719-1924 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.